Talking to the dead

Charles 1 Comment


News from Malacca, Malaysia:

The small Gujerati community here fears the final rites practice which involves talking to the dead is dying because the young are not interested.

For one man, who has provided his services to bereaved families over the past 10 years, his only hope is his son.

“I must pass it down as I am getting old. I am afraid there will be no more replacement to manage the funeral rites for the community in future,” said Nishrint Chimanlal Ravichand, 48.

Nishrint, who has performed the last rites at more than 20 funerals, said part of the procedure requires one to talk to the dead.

“With a little practice and understanding of the Hindu scriptures, I am able to do it when conducting the final rites.

“I found that talking to the deceased makes my chores, like bathing and dressing the body, easier,” he said when met at his home in Banda Kaba, a village with heritage status within Malacca city.

Nishrint, who learnt the rites from his father and grandfather, said in most cases, the bodies are stiff and this makes it difficult for him to dress the corpse in white as required for a Hindu funeral.

“I communicate with the dead, requesting the deceased to relax so I can carry out my chores without problems,” he said.

Interesting, that. Here in the UK it is by no means unusual for an undertaker to talk to a corpse while laying it out.

In Malaysia, it seems, there is a superstition that “touching a body could lead to bad luck”. You’ll find a variant of that pretty much everywhere. But they also believe that touching a dead orphan can bring you a jinx.

Why orphans, we wonder?

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12 years ago

I suppose that most of our superstitions regarding the dead are based in nasty biological facts. Touching the dead may not necessarily lead to the company of malevolent spirits – a deadly contagion is more likely though. And orphans? Maybe because the death of a young person is more likely to be the result of a transmitted disease?

I love theorizing when I have no facts to back myself up!